Other Sports

Sports briefs: Jan. 2

The Penguins' Maxime Talbot, front, fell while making a shot on the Capitals' Semyon Varlamov during the Winter Classic outdoor game in Pittsburgh. A hooking penalty was called.
The Penguins' Maxime Talbot, front, fell while making a shot on the Capitals' Semyon Varlamov during the Winter Classic outdoor game in Pittsburgh. A hooking penalty was called. AP

Hockey

Fehr surprise star as Capitals beat Penguins in Winter Classic

Eric Fehr upstaged stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin by scoring twice and the Washington Capitals waded through rain drops to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in a wet Winter Classic on Saturday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

It was the NHL's first nighttime Winter Classic, and the first played in occasional rain, but the Capitals handled the elements — and a scoreless Crosby — just fine.

Fehr gave Washington its first lead at 2-1 in the second period after Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury abandoned the net, then sealed it with a breakaway goal in the third.

Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov, starting because of Michal Neuvirth's thigh injury, gave up Evgeni Malkin's goal in the second period but turned aside the other 32 shots.

The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. EST, before the NHL moved the start to 8 p.m. because of the threat of rain.

Malkin's 14th goal caused a never-before-seen sight at Heinz Field: fans in the crowd of 68,111 twirling Terrible Towels to salute a Penguins goal rather than a Steelers touchdown.

Pittsburgh couldn't maintain the momentum, though, as the Capitals held down Crosby, who went scoreless for a second successive game after posting at least one point in 25 consecutive games. He had five shots.

The teams changed ends halfway through the third period, to keep it fair for both squads amid the poor conditions.

"It was the same conditions for both teams," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "In every stoppage, we were in communication with both teams. And while not perfect, the puck was moving pretty well out there."

High School Basketball

Zollo breaks backboard at tournament

Vinny Zollo was a one-man delay at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Friday.

The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior from Clark County shattered a glass backboard on a dunk attempt 3:38 into the second game of the day — the consolation championship against Wheeler (Ga.).

Zollo, a former University of Kentucky commitment who ended up signing with Western Kentucky, sprinted down the court on a near-breakaway and raised for a dunk that was contested by Wheeler's Chris Longoria. The glass shattered from the force of Zollo's attempted throw-down, though it remained largely in place despite being spidered and honeycombed. Some shards of glass were scattered around the floor beneath the rim, however.

"I took off and got up there pretty good, there was a lot of contact and I just went up and tried to finish," Zollo said. "I didn't know what happened. I looked behind me ... and there was stuff flying. I didn't know what it was because I didn't really hear it crunch. I saw the glass all fall down and thought, 'Oh God, that ain't good.'"

The rims at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center are the same rims approved for use by the NCAA, and the glass is built to withstand dunk attempts.

"These rims are so loose anyway. They're meant so that kind of thing won't happen," Zollo said. "It's kind of a one-in-a-million thing. I really didn't figure there was any way."

The damage forced a 90-minute delay.

"It's going to be a late New Year's Eve," said Zollo, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in Clark County's 64-52 loss.

Baseball

Palmeiro has numbers but not support

Over his 20-year career, Rafael Palmeiro hit 569 home runs and compiled 3,020 hits. Only three others — Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Eddie Murray — surpassed 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, and each was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame the first time he was on the ballot. But Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, and he is unlikely to make it in when the results of the Hall balloting are announced on Wednesday.

Interviews with a half-dozen writers and commentators — some of whom cast Hall of Fame ballots — revealed an informal consensus that Palmeiro would be a Hall of Famer, although hardly an imposing one, if not for the stain of steroids.

"It's kind of an unusual Hall of Fame career," said Bob Costas, the longtime television commentator and baseball historian, who is not a Hall voter. "While he was an excellent player for years, the consensus among people in baseball would never have said that he was one of the best players in the game."

In fact, Palmeiro made only four All-Star teams in his career and never finished higher than fifth in balloting for the Most Valuable Player award in either league. And he was never on a World Series winner. Still, Costas said, he would have voted for Palmeiro if he had a vote but for the positive drug test.

Henry Schulman, a longtime baseball writer for The San Francisco Chronicle, said that if Palmeiro had not tested positive, he would have been a borderline first-ballot player.

"I'm a voter who believes the first ballot should be reserved for players whose names instantaneously scream 'Hall of Fame!' when they are mentioned," he said. "I'm not sure he is one."

Tim Brown, the national baseball writer for Yahoo Sports, said, "Putting the steroid issue aside, I believe he is probably a first-ballot Hall of Famer by the numbers."

He added, "I sort of cast a wary eye on players who accumulated great stats over a long career, but I think he was dominant enough to be strongly considered the first time he's on the ballot."

But like Costas, both Schulman and Brown said the steroid issue had made Palmeiro an unsupportable candidate, this year or in the foreseeable future.

Tennis

Nadal beats Federer in Abu Dhabi finals

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal started 2011 with a win over rival Roger Federer 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) on Saturday to defend his title at the World Tennis Championships exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Both players held serve throughout the match. Both Federer and Nadal were given byes into the semifinals of the six-player tournament. Federer beat fifth-ranked Robin Soderling on Friday while Nadal ousted Tomas Berdych. "I never lost my serve, but I still lost the tournament, it's kind of tough," Federer said. "Rafael and myself must have played so many times and so many times it has come down to a few shots here and there. He is an amazing shot-maker. Me as well, but today he got the better of me."

The last word

TNT's Kenny Smith, to hefty studio co-host Charles Barkley, after Barkley said his New Year's resolution is to compete in a triathlon:

"You're going to get exhausted doing the entry form."

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